Broadband Delivery UK, (BDUK) the much-vaunted plan for Britain to have "the best broadband in Europe" by 2015 took another knock yesterday when it emerged that Futitsu has decided not to bid for further government funding - cash that would help it defray some of the cost of building infrastructure out across two additional rural and remote areas. That leaves BT as the only company now bidding for the money. Martyn Warwick reports.
Not only does Fujitsu's decision put the government's rural broadband timetable in further doubt, it also gives the European Commission(EC) carte blanche to interfere in the programme on the undeniable grounds that the whole procurement process is uncompetitive - which it certainly is. In a new statement the EC has confirmed that it is investigating the BDUK process "very actively".
The UK government has set aside some £730 million to help pay for the deployment of broadband in some of the country's most remote rural areas and, under the aegis of BDUK, the money is being distributed to various local authorities. It's not a lot of money for what is a national initiative, and is truly paltry in comparison with the £10 billion and more that is being spent on the vainglorious and and overblown London Olympic Games which begin in a couple of weeks time, but it is better than a poke in the eye with a burned stick.
However, it has now emerged that Fujitsu has removed itself from bidding for the contract to roll-out broadband in Cumbria in North-West England in light of the fact that the County Council there rejected both Fujitsu's and BT's original plans on the grounds that they were fiendishly complex and also would not provide the kind of services required.
So, Fujitsu has taken its ball home leaving just BT on the field as the only company that has won a tender for rural regional broadband since the BDUK came into being.
Duncan Tait of Fujitsu, commented, “We withdrew from Cumbria because we cannot currently see a clear path towards a mass market that is required to attract leading retail service providers. We continue to monitor the market place and see where we can get this to make sense. We will look at each on its own merits and see if there is a way to make it work and get to the scale we need for our anchor tenants.”
So the BDUK initiative has fulfilled the expectations of many analysts and industry observers who have, many times, been at pains to point out that BT, with its big national network and obligation to provide telecoms services across the entire country would end up being the only company with the reach and scope to bid for all of the franchises on offer.
Many in the industry regard the BDUK procurement regime as flawed and so bureaucratic as to put off smaller companies from bothering to make a bid in the first place.
It's all such a far cry from the original plan which was to spend billions of pounds on a national broadband plan that would encompass every part of the UK. Still, we'll have the Olympic legacy to fall back on. Worth every penny - not.
please sign in to rate this article